Did you ever wonder what panhandlers really do with the money they collect from motorists at Spokane intersections? One salon owner knows, having watched transients collect spare change for more than a year now and she's fed up with the impact its having on her nearby business.
The staff at Hair Of Coarse, located near the intersection of Third and Freya, recently posted signs nicely asking panhandlers not to trash their property. The owner, Lisa Snyder, knows drivers on the corner are just trying to kind, but says your generous donations are really starting to hurt the quality of life on the lower South Hill.
"If I'm not out there every day picking up trash and garbage there's always stuff laying around out there," Snyder said.
Every day Snyder and her clients have a front row seat to what most of us only see in the blink of a traffic light.
"Most of the time they're drinking and they're littering," she said. "I have a picture of them sitting on a 12 pack of beer out on that corner as a matter of fact."
One of the panhandlers out Thursday morning would only identify himself as corporal. A former electrical engineer, Corporal spends most of his time panhandling these days. A guy named Smiley walks up to him and the money handed over during the morning commute is quickly spent.
"Hey man, I almost got enough for another beer," Corporal said.
All that beer has to go somewhere and the ladies in the salon see a lot of urinating in public. An hour later Snyder's on the phone to police after Corporal and another individual are seen pushing each other into traffic.
"These guys are the same people that come in day in day out and they are drinking and littering and they are not using that money to better themselves with shelter or food of clothing. It's not spent on that at all," Snyder said.
Snyder wishes drivers would give their money to the agencies that could help get panhandlers off the streets. Crosswalk, a shelter for teens, said for example if it got more donations counselors could put more kids on the right track.
"Whether it's something real concrete or like bus passes to get them to a mental health provider and an alcohol or drug abuse provider. Somebody that's going to be able to help them in the treatment arena if that's what they need," Bridget Cannon with VOA Crosswalk said.
Just this week the Downtown Spokane Partnership began interviewing advertising companies for a new campaign that will discourage people from giving their money directly to panhandlers. The message will include how handouts now lead to people passing out later.